As Thanksgiving approaches we come upon another good old fashioned, semi-christian, religiously influenced, American holiday. Just like at Christmas and Easter, this Thanksgiving we will celebrate a holiday mixed with both secular and sacred traditions. Will your Thanksgiving Day be dominated by thoughtful consideration of the Lord’s staggering goodness to you or will it be crowded with family dynamics, culinary stress, and Black Friday insanity?
Now there is nothing inherently wrong with secular holiday traditions: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Cowboys, and even guilt-free gluttony all have an appropriate place in our celebrations. But how does actual giving thanks fit into Thanksgiving? Perhaps your family will go around the table and share something each of you is thankful for. Perhaps you will sing some Thanksgiving hymns with your church family. Perhaps you will be reminded to give thanks to the Lord in your morning devotions. These are wonderful things. But is there a danger in a holiday for giving thanks? I think there is.
During the Thanksgiving we will hear even the secular culture talk about giving thanks, but most will treat the act of giving thanks (if they remember it at all) as a seasonal occasion. It goes something like this: be a little more generous a Christmas, a little more hopeful at Easter, and a little more grateful at Thanksgiving. But for the Christian. giving thanks isn’t for special occasions, it’s for everyday Christian living.
James teaches us that every good and perfect gift comes from God (Jas. 1:17). In Colossians, Paul sees thanksgiving as the constant posture of the Christian life, accompanying every activity (literally “in whatever we do”) in our lives, both personally and corporatly (Col. 3:15-17).
Christian thanksgiving is rooted in our understanding of the Christian Gospel. When by God’s grace we come to realize what our sin actually deserves, we become stunned by what we have actually received in Christ. This becomes a constant fountain of thanksgiving which begins at conversion and lasts throughout eternity. The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, describes this progression of gospel-driven thanksgiving in the 2nd question. It begins when we realize:
- How great our sins and misery are;
- How we are delivered from all our sins and misery;
- And how we are to be thankful to God for such deliverance.
Dear believer, no matter what the circumstances in your life are like this Thanksgiving, remember that we don’t need a special occasion to celebrate the undeserved goodness of God. Our neighbors may need a national holiday to remind them to give some thanks, but not us. For the Christian, thanksgiving is not a special occasion, its our way of life. But we have to cultivate it. I like how Alexander Mclaren once put it, “Seek to cultivate a buoyant, joyous sense of the crowded kindnesses of God in your daily life.”
Have you noticed how crowded God’s kindness is in your life? Then look around. Then perhaps at the dinner table when it comes your time to share what you are thankful for, give thanks to God for Christ and his Gospel.